2008 Honda Silver Wing ABS Review
Honda's big scooter offers luxury and the safety of anti-lock brakes
Here’s a question for you: when are you old? Are you old at fifty years or is it more like sixty? Many years ago you were old when you were thirty; nowadays we live longer so it appears to have moved backward. Let’s call it sixty. What happens on the day you turn sixty? You go to bed middle aged and shazzam you wake up old. That’s a bit rough. So why am I suddenly concerned with how old I am? Well I’m not really; I’m not old, not for a fair while anyway. It’s because I was doing some research on maxi scooters and discovered that the average rider is… old. In fact after more exhaustive research it appears the likelihood of a young person buying a maxi scooter is 1 in 9,899,9999,345,678. This is… not very likely then.
All this research has caused me to come up with my own theory, see I don’t think it’s quite as simple as ‘old people ride maxis’. I believe there’s far more to it than that. I believe it’s a conspiracy of withering proportions; something that could tear at the very fabric of our society. I believe that Maxi scooters actually make you old. That’s right, the very second you purchase one and ride out of the dealership… OLD. Instant oldness. What’s worse is that you don’t even know it’s happened. This is why so many maxi scooter owners are older. It’s beyond your control entirely. Remember this as you’re drawn towards the latest super maxi scooter. It could be your last day as a young man/woman.
Large maxi scooters are something I’ve often thought made little sense. Take a small nimble scooter and make it neither small nor nimble. Now that you’ve added all this size and weight add a healthy increase in power and voilà: you have an automatic motorcycle. Sadly, adding a healthy dose of power has been skipped so most maxi scooters until recently have just been large, heavy two-wheeled vehicles with weak and very unexciting power plants. That however is beginning to change. Scooter manufactures have realized this maxi scooter thing is no fad.
'After riding the Silver Wing I was even more convinced of how fun a powerful engine and clever CVT combination can be'
Honda’s latest Silver Wing is a sign of things to come. The engine is no longer an oversized, vibration-prone single but a smooth and reasonably powerful in-line twin. The 580cc engine in the Silver Wing makes 50hp and propels the Silver Wing to 60mph in just 7.9 seconds. The best part of this is it does it time and time again, just twist the throttle and whammo! You’re cruising at 60mph. CVT transmissions are the future and mark my words, all forms of two-wheeled transport will run them twenty years from now. Why it’s taking so long for manufacturers to give us motorcycle performance in our maxis is beyond me. After riding the Silver Wing I was even more convinced of how fun a powerful engine and clever CVT combination can be.
The transmission on the Silver Wing is about as good as it gets in scooter land. Drive is smoothly engaged without the horrible wait some bikes make you endure. Once fully engaged at about 10mph the Silver Wing has a fantastic burst of speed until about 50kph when wind versus the large frontal area begins to slow down the acceleration. We had a Gilera Nexus 500 while test riding the Honda Silver Wing and the Honda simply walked away from the Gilera with its far superior engine and drive train. There’s no question the Silver Wing has one of the standout engine and transmission combinations in the maxi scooter world.
Handling-wise, the Silver Wing is all about cruising, you can try and hustle it along like a lightweight but this will only last a short time as it’s really not in this machine’s nature. The correct way to ride the Silver Wing is to put your feet forward, sit back into the lumbar support and cruise. The low centre of gravity makes the bike awfully easy to roll from corner to corner. The suspension is on the soft side as Honda were obviously going for the touring market here and hard suspension may be sportier but sure isn’t fun over multiple days. The front shock could however be a little firmer as it does dive a little too much under heavy braking. Given the task of the bike, getting you comfortably and effortlessly to your destination, I’d have to say the ride and handling is a success.
The Silver Wing runs disc brakes front and rear with both an ABS antilock system and CBS; which is Honda’s fancy name for linked front and rear brakes on the left lever. Normally I’m not a huge fan of the linked brakes as they don’t allow you to trail brake into corners with the rear brake. Honda however realized that this is how most people ride and added a pressure and time switch to the linking of the front brake. So if you you’re only using a small amount of pressure for a short time, like when you trail brake into a corner, you’ll only get the rear brake. Clever. I’d still prefer regular brakes as I like to control them entirely myself. The last thing you want is too much front brake while turning into a corner on a damp day; with regular brakes, that can’t happen.
'...if you really want something with enough power to tour on it really comes down to the Silver Wing or the Suzuki Burgman 650'
For ease of use, the Honda is a bit below average for a maxi. It does have a 14.5 gallon under seat storage area which is good but no better than the Piaggio X8 400 and smaller than the MP3 400. Unlike most of its competitors the Silver Wing doesn’t have any kind of remote release for the under seat storage either. There are two glove boxes up front for smaller items and one of them is also lockable. This seems like the best compromise in my book for glove boxes although I wish they were a little larger. One ease of use issue that will affect most riders however is the massive effort required to get the bike off the centre stand. For smaller riders it almost impossible to get the bike off the stand on any kind of hill. It is however great fun watching somebody try and possibly a great alternative to training at the gym.
When it comes down to it, there aren’t a lot of options in the maxi scooter world. Sure there are plenty of different models but if you really want something with enough power to tour on it really comes down to the Silver Wing or the Suzuki Burgman 650. We’ve yet to test the big Suzuki but expect things to be pretty tight as on paper there’s not much in it. Yamaha also has the T-Max which a slightly sportier version of the maxi idea not unlike the Gilera Nexus. We’ll be putting them all head to head soon so we’ll have the definitive result. On it’s own though, the Silver Wing is highly recommended. It’s got a great engine and transmission, it’s very comfortable for long rides and will likely last a lifetime as, like most Hondas, it’s put together with great care. Oh and don’t worry about the old bit; old people are far smarter than younger people. Because… well old people are simply younger people who have lived longer and know more. So why do they ride maxis? Because they make a hell of a lot of sense. Definitely book the Honda Silver Wing for a test ride.
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